Struggling with anxiety is almost inevitable when you’ve dealt with a narcissist in a toxic relationship, and one of the best ways to deal with anxiety is to recognize it quickly. The problem with this state of mind is that it quickly spirals out of control. The sooner you recognize that you’re getting more than a little anxious, the better you’ll be able to combat the effects it has with various techniques that help you calm back down.
Whether you use breathing techniques, meditations, positive thinking, or any of the other tips and techniques you come across during this challenge and elsewhere, the key to being less anxious is to notice it as soon as it starts. It’s much easier to calm down when you’re feeling a little stressed and worried than when you’re in the middle of a full-blown anxiety attack.
Your approach to noticing when you’re getting anxious without a valid reason – remember, sometimes anxiety is helpful and necessary – should be two-fold. You want to pay attention to both your mind and your body. Each will give you clues long before you start to feel out of control. Staying in control and forcing yourself to calm back down is the entire point of this exercise. The earlier you can disrupt the feeling of anxiety, the easier it is to break through and stop yourself from spiraling out of control.
You’ll experience both physical and mental symptoms long before you get too nervous and anxious to do anything about it. Before I share with you what to look for, I want you to be aware that it varies from person to person and event to event what you’ll experience. Sometimes you’ll notice most of these, while you only get a few symptoms here and there at other times. Don’t wait until you show every single symptom before starting to work on alleviating your anxiety.
The physical symptoms are comprised of what we talked about in yesterday’s post. They include trouble sleeping, insomnia, upset stomach, nausea, diarrhea, sweating, increased heart rate, headache, fatigue, and weakness.
The mental signs that you’re starting to get anxious are a feeling of dread of fear, having a hard time concentrating or having a blank mind, feeling high strung and on the alert for danger, being tense and unsalable to sit still, and being irritable. Again, you won’t feel all of these mental and emotional times every time, but they are good signs to look out for.
Pay attention to your body and mind. Recognize the signs of anxiety early and then make an effort to relax and rationalize your fears. Break the vicious cycle and avoid spiraling down into a pit of anxiety.
While we’ve previously discussed yoga as a form of self-care and exercise. It combines a number of strategies that help to curb the toxic effects of anxiety. If yoga doesn’t seem like your thing, that’s okay. There are plenty of self-care methods that you can take up instead. The important thing is that you mindfully set aside time that’s dedicated only for yourself.
This time is to be spent doing something you enjoy, not on completing a task or other duty in your life. This is important because your choice of self-care must actively interrupt the fight or flight cycle your mind is going through when feeling anxious if you hope to get past the anxiety. Let’s take a closer look at this process and what taking time for yourself does to short circuit it.
Whether what’s causing your anxiety is a real threat or merely a perceived one, your mind and body will react in the same way. So even if you’re experiencing a mini panic attack that has no logical cause, the symptoms will still be felt. The response to threat sets off a cycle in the amygdala of your brain, which then goes onto the hypothalamus.
These signals set off a chain reaction of various hormones to be released. Cortisol and adrenaline are the main hormones involved in the stress process. Individual symptoms will vary, but some of these are:
All of these feelings add up to what is known as anxiety, which can lead to a host of negative associations. The cycle that starts in your brain must be interrupted in order to overcome these crippling symptoms.
That’s where self-care comes in. By proactively taking time to engage in something to take your mind off of the anxiety, you’ll be purposefully shutting down the fight or flight response of your brain. Acts of self-care often involve your overall health.
Things like eating well, exercising regularly and indulging in beauty rituals often come to mind when we think of the concept. However, self-care can be practically anything you enjoy that leads you to feel relaxed.
The key to choosing an effective method of self-care is that you deliberately are involving yourself in a fun activity that isn’t likely to lead to stress. Choose a much-loved hobby, a regular social night with good friends, an appointment to get your hair done, a shopping trip or even just some quiet time to read a book. You’ll be amazed at the difference doing nice things for yourself makes in your anxiety levels and your mindset.
If you think of your body as a computer of sorts, your brain acts as your operating system. It helps you to navigate and make sense of the world around you. The term “brain health” refers to how well your brain is able to perform such tasks as learning, concentrating, remembering, playing and managing your bodily functions.
During times of stress, including during toxic relationships – along with aging and other particularly stressful periods in your life, your brain will work at differing capacities. A number of factors influence your brain’s health or how well it functions and performs its necessary duties. In addition, there are habits and activities you can engage in that can improve your overall brain health.
Your memory is another component that makes up brain health and influences the ways in which you navigate the world. Your memory acts as the filing system of your brain, storing and organizing information learned for later retrieval. Everything you’ve ever learned is stored away in your memory.
Approximately 100 billion neurons come together to form your brain. Over time, the neurons form pathways and connections. These connections occur through synapses, which allow the neurons to communicate with each other. Memories are made as the pathways between neurons are strengthened. In order to keep your brain and memory functioning in tip-top shape, you need to exercise them and take good care of them regularly.
It’s true. Though the brain isn’t technically a muscle, it has to be taken care of in a manner similar to the ways you work out your muscles and care for the rest of your body.
Over the next 30 days, we will address these methods, along with other information pertinent to getting the most from your mind. It is my desire that, by the end of this month, you’ll feel enthusiastic about the potential your brain holds and will be eager to put your newfound knowledge to work for you.
While the cause of anxiety is mainly mental, it manifests in physical form through the changes that our bodies undergo when we start to feel anxious. The bigger our anxiety gets, the more pronounced the physical changes will be.
Often it is those physical impacts that have the biggest negative impact on our health and our quality of life. Making an attempt to reduce both the frequency and severity of anxiety experiences will have an immediate positive effect on the body.
It’s important that you recognize these physical manifestations of anxiety. Think of them as warning signals. When you start to notice them, it’s time to get proactive about dialing your anxiety down. Let’s take a look at what you might experience on the physical side of anxiety.
Often your first sign of anxiety is that you’re having trouble sleeping. It may be harder to fall asleep with random thoughts running through your head. Or you may wake up in the middle of the night with worries.
Sweating and sweaty hands, in particular, are another sign that you’re getting anxious and stressed out. Listen to your body and work on calming down. Running your hands under slightly cool water can give you immediate relief, but won’t help reduce your anxiety.
Pounding Heartbeat and Headache
As your anxiety and your stress level go up, you may start to notice a pounding heartbeat. Your body is pumping blood through your system in an effort to get ready for a fight or flight. With the increased adrenalin and higher blood pressure, you may also start to get a headache.
Nausea or Upset Stomach
Nausea and an upset stomach can be another physical symptom of anxiety. I’m sure you’ve experienced this at times when you were nervous about an exam or public speaking engagement. You know your anxiety is spiraling up when you start to feel extremely nauseous.
Fatigue and Weakness
Listen to your body. Being on high alert for long periods of time, as during an anxiety attack, is exhausting. Get extra rest when you can and don’t push yourself too hard.
As the level of anxiety rises, you’ll see some of these physical symptoms increase. You can quickly move from having trouble sleeping to full-blown insomnia. If it lasts for more than a couple of nights, and your attempts to relax and reduce your level of anxiety, it may be time to get professional help so you can rest.
There can be a number of things that contribute to your anxiety. Frequently, a predisposition to anxiety is encoded in your genes. Medicine and therapy can definitely help. Recent studies show that sleep deprivation plays a negative role in emotional processing. The ability to manage your emotions in a healthy way is absolutely essential to keeping anxiety at bay. So if too little snoozing is a constant factor in your life, it would seem that getting more sleep can help.
The portion of your brain that is responsible for protecting you in times of danger is called the amygdala. It communicates perceived threats to the prefrontal cortex, which then determines whether flight or fight is necessary.
These two portions of the brain usually work pretty well together. However, under a period of distress, such as those stimulated by lack of sleep, their signals can get crossed. This causes the emotional centers of the brain to take over, leading to difficulty in concentration, increased irritation, slower reflexes, and higher anxiety levels.
You’ve probably heard of REM sleep. During these cycles, the parts of the brain that handle learning are engaged. Three to five REM cycles are average, and science has shown that more is better for improved mood. If you’re not sleeping, you’re definitely not going into these much-needed REM stages. Not only is the amount of sleep you get important. The quality is also essential to strong mental health.
There are some habits you can pick up that can contribute to easier sleep and less insomnia if these are issues for you. Avoid exercise before bed, as this can stimulate you. Instead, shoot for five or six hours beforehand. Sessions of 20 to 30 minutes of exercise each day can help. Also, the timing of your meals can contribute to a smoother time sleeping. Try not to eat three hours before bed. Spread out your meals and snacks throughout the day to avoid intense hunger pangs or spikes in blood sugar. These habits should help ease you into slumber when bedtime arrives. Caffeine and alcohol can rob you of your rest, so avoid them as much as possible.
Set up your surroundings in a way that is soothing. Make your bedroom your nighttime sanctuary. Light candles for ambiance, play soft music and add a scent like lavender that’s known for its calming properties. Be sure your routine before sleep isn’t stimulating, so lay off the electronics about a half hour ahead of time. If you simply can’t sleep once you lie down, get up and read or drink some tea. Tossing and turning just leads to more anxiety.
Peaceful slumber is always good for your body, mind, and soul. So give these suggestions a try if you’re experiencing high levels of anxiety. Better sleep can definitely help.
Let’s talk about mental clutter today and the negative effect it can have on how anxious you feel. By becoming aware of what it is, and using a simple but effective strategy to “de-clutter” our mind, we can reduce anxiety in yet another way. In other words, I want to share another tool with you today that you can add to your toolbox for dealing with anxiety.
What Is Mental Clutter?
To make sure we’re on the same page, let’s define this mental clutter. It’s all the random stuff in your head that you’re keeping track of. It could be appointments, things you need to do, and that never-ending list of projects you want to tackle eventually. We all have mental clutter, and when we let it become too much, it can add to how anxious we feel.
Start by just becoming aware of this clutter of thoughts in your head. Pay attention to when those random thoughts pop in your head. Sometimes it’s in the middle of the day while you’re busy working on something completely unrelated. Oftentimes, they pop up at night when you’re trying to relax or go to sleep. Become aware of them, so you can then start to tackle the next step, which involves dealing with this mental clutter.
How To Reduce Mental Clutter
Now that you’ve become aware of this mental clutter, it’s time to start reducing and eliminating it. The tools to do this are simple. All you need is a pen and a notebook. You’re going to do a “brain dump”. This is the mental equivalent of dumping the contents of your closet in the floor so you can decide what to keep, what to donate, and what to throw out.
Here’s how you do it. Start writing down all those random things you want or should do. Write down everything you need to remember, appointments you need to make or keep. Write down all the projects you want to tackle and the goals you want to accomplish. Don’t edit, don’t judge, just write it all down. Don’t stop until you can’t think of anything else.
I’m going to warn you. It’s mentally exhausting, but also incredibly freeing and one of the best ways to reduce anxiety and stress. Simply writing it all down will get it out of your head and make you feel less mentally cluttered.
Optionally you can start going through your long list, crossing out line items that aren’t really important, making appointments and noting them in your calendar, and coming up with a list of projects you want to tackle first. I promise you’ll feel calmer once you do this.